Top Tips for Managing Expat Jet Lag
Expat jet lag is MUCH different from holiday jetlag. You are either home to see family and friends for a limited time, or back from vacation to the country where you are living and need to dive right into work or other activities.
In general there is much more pressure to feel better asap so you can immediately get into the swing of things, so I have put together a list of my top tips for managing jet lag:
1. Rest better
Noise cancelling headphones on the plane. This has been a game-changer for me. I actually have a full plane travel setup and routine that allows me to be in my own personal oasis, so I feel as rested as possible upon arrival. (Read my expat guide to long-haul flights here.)
Earplugs and blackout curtains at destination. Because it will take a couple days to get acclimated to the time zone, you want to set your body up for a successful transition. If you don't have blackout curtains you can also bring along a comfy eye mask and earplugs to optimize sleep.
Melatonin or other sleep supplements. I am a big fan of melatonin and natural supplements such as magnesium to help you sleep. Other natural remedies include essential oils, pillow spray, and not using technology or eating too close to bedtime.
2. Eat smarter
Double water intake. On the day of the flight, on the plane, and for a couple days after you arrive consciously drink more water. Avoid sparkling water on the plane as it can make you more bloated and uncomfortable. Add lemon, fruit, cucumber, or try herbal tea to vary the taste.
Try fasting on the flight. If you already practice intermittent or other fasting, you can try fasting on the plane ride. If you prefer or need to eat, try to eat light, focusing on fruit and vegetables and avoiding heavy, greasy, and overly-processed food.
Avoid snacking and night eating on arrival. Not only does eating close to bedtime negatively affect your sleep, it can also keep you from acclimating quickly. Try to eat normal portions at normal times, and eat as light and healthy as possible.
3. Acclimate to the new time zone
No naps. Once you arrive, force yourself to stay awake until an appropriate bedtime, at the earliest 9pm. If you wake up in the middle of the night, lie awake in the dark with your eyes closed until 5am or read with a very soft low light. Definitely avoid technology (see below).
Eat at regular mealtimes. You will probably wake up hungry in the middle of the night, or not be hungry when you should be. I just force myself to only eat at normal mealtimes, even though it is uncomfortable. Remember that a little hunger is not a problem - you can handle it!
Limit phone use. If you wake up in the middle of the night, don't reach for your phone! You are much more likely to go back to sleep if you don't, and the phone light will affect your body's ability to adapt to the new time zone. Also limit phone use close to bed and upon waking.
4. Get outside and move
Exercise when you arrive. I always schedule an exercise class or gym session for the day after my arrival if possible. Moving and sweating in the new time zone helps your body to acclimate, and exercise is always the right answer whenever you are not feeling your best.
Take walks in daylight. I think walks might be the best thing you can do when you are feeling the effects of jet lag. You can move, enjoy nature, and get sunlight on your skin. It might be hard to motivate yourself to go, but once you are moving you will feel so much better.
Get outside. All the experts recommend fresh air and sunlight to manage jet lag. Even if you are too exhausted to move around a lot, just getting some sun on your face can help tremendously. Sit in the park with a friend, read a book in the backyard, or have lunch out on a patio.
5. Get your mind right
As always, I suggest you manage your mind around jet lag. Wishing it would going away or fighting it is not ultimately helpful for you. I like to practice thoughts like:
- I feel more fatigued than normal, and that's ok
- I know exactly how to manage my jet lag
- I am so grateful that I am here spending time with people I love
When you can get yourself to a positive place, you can handle anything! If you struggle with this and with negative emotions that keep you from living the life of your dreams, I am here to help.
Book a free discovery session with me to get clear about what you really want, determine what is holding you back, and identify powerful actions you can take to create your best life abroad.
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Hi, I'm Jen! I am a US expat and have lived abroad for six years, first in exciting Shanghai and now in beautiful Thailand.
I always strive to learn, grow, and be the best version of myself, and I'm so grateful I get to spend my days working with amazing expat women like you:
Women who are smart and want to reach their goals, but need help overcoming stress, overwhelm, and other obstacles so they can create their best lives abroad.